Robert McBride was a conductor working for the rail transportation company CSX. McBride was injured when a braking system he was using for approximately seven to eight consecutive hours caused his hand to fatigue and fall into one of the brakes. McBride required two surgeries to repair the damage. In addition to pain and numbness, he still suffers from limited use of his hand.
McBride sued CSX under FELA, a statute designed to improve health and safety conditions for railroad workers. A jury awarded damages to McBride because the configuration of the trains required constant maneuvers that caused his fatigue. FELA states that a railroad company is liable for injury or death “resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of” that company. CSX challenges the jury’s finding of liability on the ground that the trial judge’s jury instructions did not add a requirement that the company’s negligence also had to be the proximate cause of the injury. McBride’s attorney argues that FELA contains no such requirement.
If the Supreme Court sides with CSX, railroad employees and their survivors will have a more difficult time holding negligent employers responsible when they are injured or killed on the job.